In Celebration of the Holy Presence of God
Etna United Methodist Community Connections & Mission Outreach Report
“Do Something!” This phrase from Matthew West’s song by the same title sums up the love of God and love for God’s people lived at Etna Church. The song’s chorus rings out as the singer is railing at God about the deplorable conditions of the world: “God, why don’t you do something?” and God replies: “I did, I created you!” I was first introduced to this song when Etna youth returned from their annual mission trip.
Faith in Action! That is the motto which anchors the Community Connections and Mission Outreach Area ministry. A heart of love bursting with expression is how I would describe this community of faith. They take seriously the commandment of Jesus to love God and to love neighbor. (Mark 12:29-31) This great love for God is lived out-loud in numerous ways through this congregation. A young adult treks off to Uganda for several months simply to love the most vulnerable; volunteers cook, pray, paint, coach, mentor and weave bags into the warm embrace of God for those finding shelter under the bridges and living in the byways. The question hangs in the air at Etna Church: “Is there more you’d have me do or be Lord?”
The people of God at Etna Church have deep hunger. The congregation has begun naming that there is a God shaped emptiness within us that only God can fill. This past year, as foundation for beginning a new appointment, prayer and spiritual formation have become the focus of every facet of ministry. At the suggestion of the lay delegate to annual conference last summer, the congregation quickly embraced the pursuit and participation in the West Ohio Breakthrough Prayer initiative.
The focus of the Breakthrough (BT) Impact Prayer Team has been to invite the congregation to intentionally call upon the Holy Spirit to encircle and empower the mission and ministry of Etna congregation. Each month, or liturgical season, of this year the BT Impact Prayer Team has led the congregation in experiences which engage the power and energy of God through prayer for personal, congregational and community mission and faith formation. The hunger of the peoples deepen with sighs too deep for words; (“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8:26) as together we breathe deeply in the Word of God by praying scripture. (Lectio Dinvia)
However, the hunger of God’s people does not stop within the connection of the congregation. The pray-ers at Etna Church seek a felt sense of God’s presence not just for ourselves but for the folks far and near beyond the church edifice. Prayer and the Community Connections & Mission Outreach Area deepen and widen the mission and ministry of this congregation. Every ministry and mission this year has been circled with prayer as the congregation gathered in small group, individual study and through preaching with Mark Batterson’s book Draw the Circle.
Through this time individuals have stepped up and knelt down in leadership mentoring others as participation in community connecting and missional outreaching service and love for God’s people is lived among the congregation. As of March first of this year, 75 % of the worshipping congregation is participating in mission and community connections in some way. AND nearly 100% of the worship attendees have had increase in prayer and formation. To quote a member of the BT Impact Prayer Team: “we have spent much time asking for our own spiritual growth and telling stories AND we have spent much more time sharing stories about the ministries in services, meetings, and written communications.” The Holy Spirit of God is anointing this congregation with possibility of a God size dream and mission.
Etna congregation realizes not only our own hunger for God, but the hungry hearts of others for God. From the Upward Basketball court to supporting missionaries in Peru and Holland, this congregation strives to inspire the God shaped emptiness within to seek personal relationship with Jesus. Together as we deepen awareness of God’s presence, prayer, formational power and energy within our own lives we love our neighbors near and far. As John Wesley urges, we are offering Christ to neighborhoods and nations. Truly, the world is our parish.